Key Committee Advances Kilmer Bill to Help Coastal Tribes Facing Severe Weather Threats

Washington D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved a bill authored by Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) to provide dedicated resources to Native American tribes living in coastal areas to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and sea level rise. The legislation, entitled the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act (H.R. 729), would expand the Coastal Zone Management Act to provide the necessary tools tribes need to protect their people and landmarks from changing landscapes and weather events.

“The challenges of severe storms and increased flooding are affecting communities throughout our country – and in my district alone, there are four tribes that are actively moving to higher ground,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This bill will provide direct access to much needed resources for tribes to enhance their coastal resiliency and keep their people out of harm’s way. I am grateful for the Committee’s bipartisan support of this bill and attention to these important matters and urge the full House of Representatives to pass this legislation without delay. 

“I would like to thank the Natural Resources Committee for passing the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act today and thank Congressman Derek Kilmer for his proven leadership on this and the many other bills addressing climate change,” said Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation. “This bill will make available to Tribes grant funding for the protection and preservation of Tribal coastal zones and areas. This funding will be very helpful to Tribes that are dealing with rising sea level, and coastal and shoreline degradation and destabilization due to climate change. We urge the full House of Representatives to take up and pass this bill with all expediency.”

“Indigenous communities have long been leaders in responsible stewardship of the environment, but today more than ever they are feeling the devastating impact of climate change, rising sea levels, and worsening natural disasters,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “That’s why I am proud to join Rep. Kilmer in championing this legislation to give Indian Country the necessary tools to mitigate climate change impacts and preserve their land, their people and their way of life for future generations.”

Coastal tribes are increasingly confronting persistent flooding, mold damage, tsunami threats, and erosion. Washington state has over 3,000 miles of marine coastline, on which many reservations or fishing grounds are located. To date, tribes such as the Quileute Nation village of La Push, the Hoh Tribe, the Makah Tribe, and the Quinault Indian Nation have begun the process of moving assets and people to higher ground.

Rep. Kilmer’s bipartisan bill recognizes tribal sovereignty by amending the Coastal Zone Management Act to allow tribal governments to directly compete for Coastal Zone Management Grants, instead of requiring them to petition states to prioritize their projects. This parity is essential given the severe challenges tribal governments face in implementing coastal and shoreline measures that support public safety, public access, and cultural and historic preservation.

In July, Rep. Kilmer and Quinault Indian Nation President Sharp testified about the importance of the bill to the Members of the House Natural Resources Committee.